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Messenger of Death (1988)

A Denver reporter investigates the mass murder of a family of Mormons in rural Colorado.


J. Lee Thompson


Rex Burns (novel), Paul Jarrico (screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Bronson ... Garret Smith
Trish Van Devere ... Jastra Watson
Laurence Luckinbill ... Homer Foxx
Daniel Benzali ... Chief Barney Doyle
Marilyn Hassett ... Josephine Fabrizio
Charles Dierkop ... Orville Beecham
Jeff Corey ... Willis Beecham
John Ireland ... Zenas Beecham
Penny Peyser ... Trudy Pike
Gene Davis ... Junior Assassin
John Solari ... Senior Assassin
Jon Cedar ... Saul
Tom Everett ... Wiley
Duncan Gamble Duncan Gamble ... Lieutenant Scully
Bert Williams Bert Williams ... Sheriff Yates


Wifes and children of the Mormon Orville Beecham become victims of a massacre in his own house. The police believes the crime had a religious motive. Orville doesn't give any comment on the case, is taken into protective custody. Journalist Smith persuades him to help him in the investigation - and finds out about economic motives for the murder. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What the cops can't do, he will.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:






Release Date:

17 September 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Avenging Angels See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,035,279, 18 September 1988, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Ultra Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The elders of this movie's religious groups are played by three stars of old Western movies, Charles Dierkop, Jeff Corey and John Ireland, who play Orville Beecham, Willis Beecham and Zenas Beecham respectively. See more »


During the car chase, Smith's car is on the inside of one of the tankers on the first corner out of the tunnel, but in the next shot it's back in the middle of both tankers. See more »


Garret Smith: [threatening] You're going to give us the name, yes?
Senior Assassin: No!
[gets kicked in the face]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Almost 5 minutes were cut in Finland for VHS distribution. Later released on DVD as uncut. See more »


Referenced in Best of the Worst: Our VHS Collection (2019) See more »

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User Reviews

Exciting Charles Bronson/J.Lee Thompson movie with noisy action , suspense , car pursuits and violence
21 October 2016 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Wifes and children of the Mormon Orville Beecham (Charles Dierkop) become victims of a slaughter in his own house . The police believes the massacre had a religious motive . Orville doesn't give any comment on the investigation and he is taken into protective custody . Tough 'Denver Tribune' crime reporter Garret Smith (Bronson , he was about sixty-six years of age when he appeared here) persuades him to help him in the case of the slaying of his family . As there is an extreme feud between different Mormon sects , one being led by Willis Beecham (Jeff Corey) and the other led by his brother Zenas Beecham (John Ireland) . Smith , helped by Jastra Watson (Trish Van Devere) , uncovers a strange conspiracy around old-rich real state .

This light entertainment and standard Bronson movie is full of action , thrills , and disturbing scenes . Here Bronson rules in his usual stoic acting and displays efficiently his weapons , killing mercilessly nasties . The meaning and relevance of this movie's title is that it refers to a drawing featuring an avenging angel of death that is left at a crime scene at the beginning of the flick . The title also suggests that Bronson is a 'Messenger of Death', the word messenger also being a play on words with this, as his character is a reporter , a job which involves writing news articles , they being "messages" in a sense . In the film there is frantic action , thrilling car/trucks pursuits , shootouts , intrigue , little bit of violence and including a twisted as well as suspenseful finale . Based on a book and scripted by Paul Jarrico , as its source Rex Burns novel 'The Avenging Angel' was first published in 1983 , though the film has little in common with the novel it is based on . From the beginning until ending the action-packed and fast moving is continued and that's why the picture results to be entertaining . This is one of the last films (last movie was Kinjite) Charles Bronson made for Cannon Films and it represents the ninth and final of ten teamings between producer Pancho Kohner and star actor Bronson . Charles Bronson acting is wooden as being habitual in his roles as an investigator/executioner . Here he plays a reporter who carries out an investigation and finds out about economic motives for a massacre . This journalist evokes the crime writer character he played in St. Ives (1976) , the first movie he made with Thompson . The great spotlights of the film are the spectacular chases , car crashes between Bronson's car and the big juggernaut as well as the ending confrontation that's stimulating and moving . Nice and wide support cast , such as : Daniel Benzali , Marilyn Hasset , John Cedar , Penny Peyser , Tom Everett and Gene Davis who starred a heinous killer in ¨10 to midnight¨ by Thompson . Special mention for Laurence Luckinbill who gives an overacting with quite gesticulation . And the elders of this movie's religious groups are played by three stars of old Western movies : Charles Dierkop , Jeff Corey and John Ireland . It packs and evocative and adequate cinematography by Gideon Porath . Atmospheric soundtrack by Robert O. Ragland , including stirring choral score in the title and final credits composed in ¨Jerry Goldsmith's Omen¨ style .

The fare was regularly directed by J. Lee Thompson , though he fell ill during the making of this film , the picture was then finished by the first and 2nd unit director : Robert C. Ortwin Jr. and George Van Noy . It's narrated understanding as well as hardly . This movie represented the eighth and penultimate of nine teaming of director 'J Lee Thompson' with star actor Charles Bronson . This Thompson movie was theatrically released between his pictures Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1986) and Kinjite (1989) , both of them starred by Bronson . Thompson previously had a nice track record in the English cinema from 1950 until 1961 , directing good Western (McKenna's gold , White Buffalo) and all king genres as Sci-Fi (Conquest and Battle of planet of apes), terror (reincarnation of Peter Proud , Eye of the devil), adventures (Flame over India , Kings of the sun , Taras Bulba , Tiger Bay) and Warlike ( Guns of Navarone, Von Braun , Chairman , The passage). His two biggest successes turned out to be ¨Guns of Navarone¨and ¨Cape Fear¨. Thereafter , the filmmaker's career subsided in a morass of slickly realized but middling films. He moved into the field of international spectaculars , at which point his filmmaking seemed to lose its individuality . J. Lee Thomson working from the 50s in England, finished his career making Chuck Norris (Firewalker) and Charles Bronson vehicles (Caboblanco , Evil that men do, Messenger of death, Death Wish 4 : Crackdown, Caboblanco, St Ives). Firewalker rating : Mediocre but passable , but it will appeal to Charles Bronson fans

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